I read this answer, and it made me wonder something deeply; the answer seemed to imply strenuous or volitional attention was inferior to watching the mind for breath meditation, and that merely observing was more effective. I have heard such a statement many times elsewhere, that too much 'expecting' or 'grasping' inhibits concentration.

If this is so, how does a practitioner loosen their grip on the mind? How does one observe the breath with detachment?

  • 1
    Put this into one of your other questions. But here it is again: youtube.com/watch?v=4kY4zVThpro From experience I can only say that any 'forceful' or strenuous attention implies wrong concentration, leading to things like dissociation and other stuff. Hope this helps. :)
    – user13579
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 10:38

5 Answers 5


Hahaha! Excellent question! What if the body did the breathing for the mind?

The biorhythm attached to the breath has its own tempo, as does the heart, the viscera, etc. When you exercise, fatigue accrues when there are disharmonies in those biorhythms - you don't get tired from being at rest.

The premise is enveloping one biorhythm in another, centralising your potential constant energy output. In other words your breathing is a result of your actions, therefore taking the conscious energy input (the mind) is on the action and not the breath.

To help wrap your head around this here is a practical exercise:

  • Find a quiet place.
  • Plant your feet comfortably wide apart, parallel.
  • Knees and hips remain stationary.
  • Tighten the belly.
  • Hands in 'prayer' comfortably above your heart (doesn't need to be touching the chest).
  • Following the movement of your latissimus dorsi muscles compress one side of your spine as if you were attempting to make your shoulder and your hip meet.
  • Gently shift that compression to the other side, and then back and forth. This will lead to a rocking motion which imitates two accordions working in tandem.
  • For those who know how to open the throat doing so may result in being able to hear your breath while your diaphragm remains stationary...
  • If you you do not know how to open your throat, continue the exercise while you think of other people yawning.
  • Listen for the gasping sound and experiment with the amount of movement required keep yourself going.

I have called it Bi-valve breathing and the benefits of the technique would be more clearly useful for martial artists however there are many applications.

Cultivate in harmony


Granted and agreed that too much expectation or grasping (investment in results) inhibits meditation.

Loosening the grip on the mind involves entering into a state of repose with respect to what is observed: Not reacting to what is being observed, not trying to influence of control it in any way, accepting it as it is or becomes and letting go of all ideation, interests, or accidental affects one has had on it.

  • "investment in results", does housholder Troll likes to go more deeper into it without much expecting results at the same time?
    – user11235
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 7:07
  • Connecting the lack of expectation, return to meditation, and expenditure of effort with valuable results is a combination of difficulty, but insight may yield it.
    – Troll
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 9:15

In contemporary practices, some control was exerted over the breath. In Anapanasatti you are just aware of the breath without trying to control or change the nature of the breath. This is the detachment one must exercise towards the breath.


Don't forget; Volition is not only a free ride into Yama's mouth from the nidana link called volition; But also a skandha... kinda like the Monopoly card that says: Do not pass go, Do not collect two hundred dollars, Go straight to jail.

Best to think of the Ox Herding pictures when getting the ol' mental elephant out of the mud. The Buddha just sat there as his "friend" lamented about what his "family" was doing to his house not getting a clear drink or bath... not seeing himself; Being the only one churning the great ocean and thrashing about in such attachment, in that very moment of recollection.

Breath is not an easy thing to hold as meditation; without noticing it? You may have not breathed in forty kalpas, and on noticing it? Pow right in the kisser.

Tactile sensation is an easier one; and breath thought of as a last resort... Zen meditation posture where the tips of the thumbs are lightly touching is my suggestion as a better grip... breath arouses different states of mind to notice arising and passing away... basically in seeing the rising and falling of the three poisons. As soon as one releases all three? Who knows how long has passed... an aeon in a moment. First glimpse of Nirvana... Which ever of the three attaches greed, hate or delusion at that bubble bursting? Never you mind as all three have returned like a council of Anagamin expecting you to be their new sacrificial lord and savior; to wallow and thrash about in their greed craving and desire.

Oh and you will thinking you have attained something other than letting go is an even worse attachment; as it only mires one in delusion. Eventually you'll come out on top of that animal be it greed, be it hate, or be it delusion. Keep on sitting and they will just eat each other out of house and home.

Jhana states and siddhi/riddhi are their biggest attachment and failings on the path... having grasped at one feeling and equating it to nirvana/nibbana thinking it attainment? Yours, mine, and countless others too.

Chasing jhana states and the siddhi/riddhi is the downfall of every meditator at some point.

After that point; One sees the truth of: "No god no brahma can be said to be the maker of all of this." ~Visuddhimagga

I have no problem saying that; that book is poison on the path to Buddhahood/Dakinihood from direct experience of it as a path and result. That quote above; Is really the only thing to be learned from it.


When meditation, observe your meditation object and not anything else.

Put effort in mind cultivation and dhamma cultivation, there is no short cut. Be patient as the fruit will come if we continue to garden the tree well, our job is to garden (the process) not to attach to the fruit (end result).

Quote from here, by Ajahn Chah:

Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. What you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing.

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